Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar unveiled a five-point recovery plan as he pinned hopes on pushing the Tories into second place.
But he admitted he has to address perceptions the party had not focused beyond bigger urban areas such as Glasgow.
“Some may feel like it’s a central belt party but recovery is north, east, south and west; it’s a recovery for all of Scotland. I want to rebuild that relationship,” he said at Thursday’s manifesto launch.
Mr Sarwar’s pitch for May 6 includes promises to guarantee jobs for every young Scot, set a “minimum income standard” and give £75 vouchers to all adults to spend on the high streets.
Labour proposes a “third-night free” holiday plan to support tourism, a “comeback plan” for schools and increased, £12-an-hour pay for carers.
Mr Sarwar wants to increase free childcare to 50 hours a week. He wants to make sure the SNP’s previous promise of 1,140 hours’ childcare is delivered this year. He would then increase it every year of the next parliamentary session.
‘Ability to pay’
The party also plans to abolish council tax and replace it with a “fairer alternative based on property values and ability to pay”.
Mr Sarwar ruled out raising income tax for Scots earning less than £100,000 a year.
His party believes the proposals can be paid for with cash coming to Scotland to help deal with the pandemic – which should be £4.2 billion next year – and with borrowing powers the Scottish Government already has.
The Glasgow candidate, who is standing against Nicola Sturgeon and in the city-wide regional list, wants to overtake Conservative leader Douglas Ross and regain the symbolic “main opposition” tag.
Tories are running a tanking campaign and Douglas Ross is not cutting through with the public.”
But polls before the manifesto launch suggest there is still work for Labour to do. A Savanta ComRes poll, published in The Scotsman, suggested Labour could drop back while the Tories make gains.
Labour has no first-past-the-post seats in the north and north-east, and had fewer MSPs elected on the regional ballots in the last parliamentary session.
Mr Sarwar said he thinks voters outside the “political bubble” are not focused on the constitution, which he hopes will help him beat the Conservatives.
He said: “Tories are running a tanking campaign and Douglas Ross is not cutting through with the public.
“They’re stoking division to cling on to second place. Douglas Ross is only focused on appealing to half the population.”
Call time on ‘old politics’
During Thursday’s official manifest launch, Mr Sarwar said he is “calling time on the old politics”.
He said: “Imagine if we obsessed about education in the next Parliament, imagine if we obsessed about the NHS in the next Parliament, imagine if we obsessed about jobs and economy in the next Parliament, imagine if we obsessed about eradicating child poverty, imagine if we obsessed about challenging the climate emergency. Just imagine the kind of Scotland we could build together.
“I want to work with you, my fellow Scots, so we can come through this crisis and build a stronger, fairer, more equal, more just, greener Scotland together.
“That’s why this recovery plan’s focus is on a jobs recovery, an NHS recovery, an education recovery, a communities recovery and a climate recovery.
“This isn’t a manifesto, this is a route map back to stronger and better times for our country.”
He urged voters to support Labour in both the constituency and regional list sections of the ballot, saying the list vote will be crucial in determining the priorities of the next Parliament.
‘Stand up to the SNP’
A Conservative spokesman said: “Polls show that only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength all over Scotland to stand up to the SNP, stop their plan for another divisive referendum and get all of the focus back on to rebuilding Scotland.”
SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “Anas Sarwar calls Boris Johnson ‘a disaster’ but continues to enable him to make decisions about Scotland against the democratic wishes of the people who live here.
“Labour can’t win this election – they’ve said they can’t. They’re not even being honest with the voters – votes for Labour allow Boris Johnson to tighten his control over Scotland.”